More than three decades ago, one Bladensburg teen-ager mercilessly teased another until the second boy had enough: He grabbed a towel in the locker room and snapped the tormentor, who was emerging from a shower.
A chase ensued. The small boy ran out of the back door and into an normally deserted wing. This time, however, a chorus group was holding practice there.
“And there my tormentor stood, buck naked in front of a chorus group,” laughed Prince George’s County Executive Wayne K. Curry yesterday, pointing to the wing where he was chased. “It was great.”
The bully went on to marry a member of the chorus and become a prominent county attorney and a friend of Mr. Curry.
Yesterday, county and school officials began “deconstruction” of the crumbling and broken 51-year-old high school to make way for the new state-of-the-art replacement.
It was bittersweet for many in the crowd, which included Bladensburg Mayor David Harrington and Bladensburg principal David Stofa.
“I feel a range of emotions,” said Mr. Curry, who graduated in 1968. “There are so many memories there. But on balance, this new school is a brand new citadel for the community. It will make a tremendous difference in the futures of our children.”
So they stood, facing a building denuded of its welcome sign, windows and some walls. They watched as a bulldozer began ripping out concrete that lined dilapidated bathrooms. They avoided mud that mixed with piles of debris.
Since 1770, there has been a school on this site. Bladensburg Academy was the first, closing in 1855. Almost a century later, Bladensburg Senior High School welcomed its first students, growing to a population of 1,300.
In the past decade, though, parents and students complained of the school’s deteriorating condition: its battered playing fields, its lack of air conditioning, its rodent infestation.
Parents met with county and school officials, and students petitioned for a new school. Now they are getting one.
Jackie Mayi-Muniz and Judi O’Neal of the Parent Teacher Student Association have worked tirelessly to bring about this day.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “At first when I walked up here and saw the demolition, I felt sad because I see so much history.”
Ms. O’Neal recalled the hundreds of times she walked the hallways or sat in meetings, but she is also thrilled over the new school, to be completed in 2004.
“It will be different,” she said. “My son, an 11th-grader, is happy about the new building. My daughter, who graduated in 1995, was stunned and sad to see the building being broken up.”
Aydokum Akingbade, a Bladensburg 12th-grader, said that he will miss the old high school. He and other students currently study at the Bel Air Annex in Bowie while the new school is being built.
“I have a lot of good memories there,” he said. “I walked those hallways a million times. Now they will be gone.”
What will replace them is a modern facility that will include a 650-seat auditorium, a large gymnasium with multiple courts, a technical academy and baseball, football and soccer fields.
Marjorie Spirer, an instructional specialist at Bladensburg, has worked at the school intermittently since 1988. She reminisced about her first homecoming and even a reunion for the Class of 1937.
“It is sad to see such a building with so many memories now empty with holes in it,” she said. “But just as we are taking the 1951 seal in the floor and the 1990 banner welcoming the Mustangs, we are taking the memories with us.”
Mr. Curry agreed as he pointed to the now-destroyed principal’s office.
“That was where I got sent after I was falsely accused of shooting clay spitballs at the art teacher,” he said. “There are all kinds of memories here. But most sentimental things and people survive buildings.
“I won’t always be a county executive,” he added. “But I will always be a Mustang.”